Yesterday was a very good day and really the first of those I’ve had in the new year. I wasn’t perfect with my picks, but once my best bet of the day, Seventy Six, was scratched out of the sixth race, I substituted for him the other two horses coming out of that December 26th maiden race, Everyotherdayhero and Privatize. They finished one-two with 30-1 Everyotherdayhero on top and propelled me to winning the late Pick-4 for 50 cents. Earlier in the day, Isn’tlovejustgrand ($21.40) won the opener at Aqueduct under a perfect ride from Eddie Castro at a very generous price and at Gulfstream, Fiddler Blue ($11.40) put in a strong stretch run to just nail the well-bet Pletcher firster Abraham on the line in an exciting stretch drive.
Now onto Friday, where I like some horses in the second half of the card at Aqueduct and another that I’ve been following the progress of as a potential Derby trail candidate out at Santa Anita.
Aqueduct, Race 5: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
I concede that the best horse in this race is probably Peggy Jane. She showed a lot of promise last winter before something obviously went wrong since she’s now been off for eleven months. She returns in the barn of Chad Brown and even if she hasn’t improved at all since her two year-old season, she should be very tough in here.
But I’m going in a different direction. Since Sing Dixie Sing seems to have lost any of the early speed that she once possessed, Saltamontes (#1) is probably left as the lone speed in here and, if you look back through her past performances, she is very dangerous when in that position. I also would not be too concerned about her most recent non-effort returning from the layoff. She had a right to need a race, but she really had no chance given the track condition. She has never liked a wet track to begin with and on this day she was wide on one of those days when you needed to be on the rail. The fact that Rudy Rodriguez put a low-profile rider like Angel Arroyo on her suggests to me that she wasn’t really supposed to be ready that day. Now Rudy is giving a leg up to Jose Ortiz and he has to be sending her from the rail. If she gets loose early I think she’ll be hard to run down late as the likely third choice in the wagering.
$10 Win 1
Aqueduct, Race 7: Claiming ($30,000-$25,000)B at one mile
I’m allowed one really “out there” pick per day, right? On paper, Convocation (#3) absolutely lays over this field, but gosh, you would think this gelding is worth more than $30,000 even if he can still run just a little bit. This is a horse who was second in the Suburban and Westchester Handicaps and fourth twice behind Quality Road in the Met Mile and Woodward in 2010. He’s made only one start in the past year, but even that was a pretty good third behind the promising Bellamy Brew in November. Mike Repole and Todd Pletcher claimed him out of that race for $50,000 and now drop him in for just over half that purchase price two months later. I’m dubious.
There are more obvious options than my selection, but I’m going to give Nebikon (#7) a long shot chance. I know he’s moving up in class whereas most of his competitors today are dropping, but at least he’s in form. Two of his last three races have been quite good and the Beyers he’s earned (an 81 and 83) stack up with just about anyone in here save Convocation. I know he was only going six furlongs last time but the race is worth watching if you can find a replay. Yesterday I picked Dan’s Gold, who was coming out of the same race, for making an early move, but you could argue that Nebikon ran even better. He contested that suicidal pace that collapsed before backing off and making a second run in the stretch as if he were one of the closers. There’s no denying this horse has improved since being moved to trainer Osvaldo Rojas’s care at Aqueduct and he’s shown enough ability to get a mile in the past for me to take a shot today.
$5 Win 7
$5 Exacta Box 3-7
Aqueduct, Race 8: O. Claiming $75,000/N1X at one mile and 70 yards for NY-bred 3 year-old fillies
This field may look evenly matched on paper, but I see two standouts. Frosty Bay (#2) was added to my “Horses to Watch” list after having no chance while blocked for the entire stretch drive of a maiden turf race on December 2nd. She returned on the dirt on December 27th when the “gold rail” was at its strongest and she was the one of the only winners from that two day period to overcome the bias. This filly made a three-wide run going into the far turn and wore down the loose-on-the-lead leader in the late stages. (Here’s the replay.) She only received a 48 Beyer for the performance, but considering that she was never on the rail at any point in the running and still won, this was an exceptional effort. If she can handle a fast track as well as the slop, I think she should be very tough in here.
Copper Bluff (#4) was also hurt by the inside bias a day earlier on December 26th. The difference between her and Frosty Bay is that she had already run well enough to win a race like this in three prior starts so her poor effort last time should be viewed as toss out. She’s never gone two turns before, but she’s a half-sister to Awesome Dividend, who was 6-for-8 routing with a best Beyer of 105. The only thing I could possibly worry about is the pace situation because none of these fillies are confirmed frontrunners, but I really think I’ve picked out two superior horses so I’ll leave the trips up to the riders.
Aqueduct, Race 9: Maiden Claiming $12,500 at one mile and 70 yards
This is my best bet of the day. “Horse to Watch” Wildhaassseee (#8) just appears to be better going a route of ground despite his sprinter’s pedigree. You can throw out his race two back when he was left at the gate and made a wide run around the turn before his jockey wrapped up on him. Last time when he was stretched back out in distance he was dismissed at 13-1 and ran quite well behind odds-on favorite Hackleton. He might have actually finished closer to that rival if Cornelio Velasquez hadn’t conceded the lead so easily early in the race. Today I really think he needs to use Wildhaassseee’s speed to get position from this outside post. As for the others, I don’t really like Rumack, who has done her best work on wet tracks and I don’t think Majestic Player was really hurt by the bias last time because he rode the rail the entire way on December 27th and had no run. Wildhaassseee earned a 57 Beyer last time out, which would win most races at this level, and I think he’s capable of even better. I’d consider odds of 3-1 or better great value.
$20 Win 8 (WINNER; Payout: $48.00)
For my final race today, let’s take a trip out to Santa Anita to scout out a potential Derby trail candidate.
Santa Anita, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for three year-olds
I don’t usually add too many out of town horses to my “Horses to Watch” list, especially when their from barns based outside of New York, but I was very interested in Footbridge (#2) before he even made his debut due to his pedigree. He’s by Street Cry out of a winning Dubai Millennium mare. You really don’t see Dubai Millennium in very many pedigrees, especially in this country, since he died after siring only one crop. The dam is a half-sister to Marietta, who won the Arlington and Iowa Oaks (G3), and is out of Minister Wife, who won the Demoiselle Stakes (G2). Minister Wife is out of Dowery, who won 13 of 25 starts and was a G1-placed router. Dowery is a half-sister to Reluctant Guest, a G1 winner who took 10 of 26 starts in her career and earned over $800,000.
I then saw a brief HRTV interview with Eoin Harty prior to that debut race. He said that he thinks Footbridge might need a race, but he really liked the horse from the beginning and believes he hasn’t had one this good in a few years. He predicted the horse would run exactly the way he eventually did and thought he would be able to show how special he is when stretched out around two turns. (Here’s a replay of his debut.) Footbridge secured a position on the rail near the back of the pack before responding well when Garrett Gomez asked him to launch a wide rally coming into the stretch. Gomez did the right thing and wrapped up on him late when he knew he’d be third and wasn’t getting to the winner. I thought it was a very encouraging debut and based on his pedigree and the comments from Harty, I think this horse may have a future. I’ll be betting and rooting for him to win impressively.
$10 Win 2
[2:25 p.m. update] – That was a head scratcher. I had the right idea, but the wrong horse. Sing Dixie Sing, who had seemingly lost her early speed along with any of her good form from earlier this year, was a different horse with the addition of blinkers. She rocketed out of the gate and never looked back. It also helped that she had no competition for the lead when my pick, Saltamontes, was slow into stride and steadied on the rail.
[2:55 p.m. update] – Run Run Forrest looks like a promising three year-old who I doubt we’ll see in a claiming race again anytime soon. Maggie Wolfendale liked this son of Dixie Union in the paddock and indeed he is a long striding horse that looks like he’ll appreciate a route of ground, just as she indicated. However, he was also as green as can be in the stretch run to point that Cornelio Velasquez could barely do much more than steer him in the right direction. He also had some trouble at the start so I’ll have to watch the race back and may add him to the “Horses to Watch” list going forward.
[3:30 p.m. update] – Nebikon finished fourth after dueling for the lead the entire way, but the real story out of the race is the terrible spill Ramon Dominguez and Convocation were involved in. He appeared to clip heels and went down really hard nearing the quarter pole. I hope Ramon and the horse are okay… I assume updates will come later.
[3:58 p.m. update] – It would have been nice to have seen some fractions in that last one, but it appeared that they really let Carameaway steal that on the lead. Frosty Bay looked like she might mount a rally in midstretch, but flattened out late. Copper Bluff was awful.
[4:25 p.m. update] – Wildhaassseee ($4.80) was sent to the front, opened up a clear advantage around the clubhouse turn, and never looked back as much the best. The price was not the best as he took all the late money and was hammered down to 7-5 as they broke from the gate. I almost wish they had tried him in a tougher spot since it seems like he’s surely worth more than the $12,500 he was dangled for today. Still, it’s another “Horse to Watch” winner, the second of the year.